‘A Game in Hell’: The Great War in Russia
An exhibition at GRAD curated by two of today’s most prominent Russian scholars, Prof John Bowlt and Dr Nicoletta Misler.
27 September – 30 November
‘A Game in Hell’: The Great War in Russia examines the artistic and historical significance of the First World War in Russia. So rapidly was the Great War succeeded by the 1917 Revolution and the Russian Civil War that there was little time to process its impact during the changing regimes that followed. In collaboration with the Russian State Library and an important private collection, GRAD bring together a rich variety of contemporaneous materials, many of which are on display for the first time in a public context, to examine public, personal and artistic responses to the war. Exhibits include Natalia Goncharova’s woodcut portfolio ‘Mystical Images of War’ and hand-made Futurist books, as well as propaganda lubki by Vladimir Mayakovsky and Kazimir Malevich and photographs of the conflict.
Many of the items on display at GRAD are part of the exceptional collection of Sergei Shestakov, which averages in total around 500 printed items, periodicals and graphic designs and over 2000 photographs. The collection is particularly important due to the dearth of materials relating to the Great War in Russian museums, which they were instructed to disregard during the Soviet period. Shestakov’s collection brings to light the personal stories of Russians affected by the War, unveiling a plurality of perspectives. Satirical prints, cartoons and illustrated periodicals show the changing attitudes of the public and the media to the unfolding conflict. Unique photograph albums, which have never before been exhibited, depict the daily routines of front line military service and illustrate the stories and exploits of an entire air force battalion.
The exhibition also examines the birth of Russia’s artistic avant-garde, whose members were influenced by the stylised aesthetics of popular prints and the naïve style of children’s drawings. Hand-crafted Futurist books by artists such as Olga Rozanova, Aleksei Kruchenykh, Velimir Khlebnikov and Pavel Filonov combine poetry with collage and various printing techniques. Examples of these books included in the exhibition are ‘A Game in Hell’, ‘War’ and ‘World Backwards’: today considered masterworks of the period, these books are rarely on display due to the delicate nature of their materials.
This year’s centennial commemoration provides an opportunity to examine the Great War from new perspectives, and GRAD’s exhibition makes a significant and enlightening contribution. Through careful curation of these rare and revealing objects, GRAD unearths the remarkable personal stories of those living in the wartime period in Russia, and the impact of the war on so many different individuals’ lives. This is the first time such an exhibition has been attempted outside Russia.
‘A Game in Hell’: The Great War in Russia: Catalogue
The exhibition benefits from the input of an array of international scholars, including John Bowlt, and Nicoletta Misler from the US, Natalia Budanova from the UK, Irina Nikiforova from The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and Liubov Rodionova from the Russian State Library in Moscow. To reflect this, a richly illustrated bilingual publication accompanies GRAD’s exhibition, produced to address gaps in scholarship.
About Sergei Shestakov
Sergei Shestakov’s main interest concerns Russian popular prints known as lubki, in particular those depicting the Russo-Japanese War and GreatWar. As well as some exceptional posters, his collection also includes incredibly rare military photo albums. The collection grew as a result of personal interest and initiative and no major dealers were involved in the process. Shestakov uncovered many materials himself and researched international sources. He currently has plans to launch a website making many of these works accessible to the general public, in order to cast light on the role of Russia in the Great War.
Open 27 September – 30 November 2014
The gallery opening hours are: Mon-Fri 11am–7pm, Sat-Sun 11am–5pm.
The entry charge is £5 and concessions are available.